Cartoonist and comedy writer Harry Venning awarded Honorary Fellowship

Aberystwyth University Council member Meri Huws with Harry Venning

Aberystwyth University Council member Meri Huws with Harry Venning

12 July 2022

The comedy writer and illustrator behind the popular cartoon strip and BBC radio comedy series, Clare in the Community, has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Aberystwyth University.

Harry Venning, who graduated with a degree in History from Aberystwyth in 1980, was a weekly contributor to The Guardian with the Clare in the Community strip. 

His work has also appeared in publications including The Mail On SundaySunday TelegraphIndependentSunday TimesThe Stage and Radio Times and in a great many books.

Together with David Ramsden he wrote twelve series’ of the highly successful sitcom Clare in the Community, which starred Sally Philipps and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 2004-19. 

An accredited lecturer for The Arts Society, he presents on the history of cartoons, sitcom writing and BBC radio comedy.

He also tours schools, theatres, arts centres and festivals with his cartoon workshop Release Your Inner Cartoonist.

He has won several awards including UK Cartoon Art Trust Strip Cartoonist Of The Year and The Sony Radio Comedy Award.

He is an ambassador for the Social Workers Union.

Harry Venning was presented as Honorary Fellow by Dr Louise Marshall, Head of the Department of English and Creative Writing on Tuesday 12 July 2022.

The full conferral presentation is available below, in the language in which it was delivered.

Presentation of Harry Venning by Dr Louise Marshall:

Dirprwy Gadeirydd y Cyngor, Dirprwy Is-Ganghellor, darpar raddedigion, gyfeillion.  Pleser o’r mwyaf yw cyflwyno Harry Venning yn gymrawd Prifysgol Aberystwyth.

Deputy Chair of Council, Pro Vice-Chancellor, prospective graduates and supporters.  It is an honour and a privilege to present Harry Venning as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Harry Venning graduated from Aberystwyth in 1980 with a degree in History, not the obvious subject given where his career has subsequently taken him, but it just goes to show the unrivalled adaptability of a degree from Aberystwyth.

As a comedy writer, illustrator, and cartoonist Harry became a household name for his weekly contributions to The Guardian in the form of the cartoon strip Clare in the Community. If you have not had the pleasure of reading Clare’s exploits (where have you been for the past 26 years?) allow me to give you a flavour of Harry’s brand of humour with one of my favourites. Clare and her partner Brian are sat together in a pub, Clare looks up from her copy of the Guardian,

“’Mansplaining’? What….is ‘mansplaining’?”

There is a pause during which Brian looks awkwardly conflicted.

“Brian?” she urges him irritated by his silence, his response comes hesitantly,

“this is a…trap, right?”.

Described by the Sunday Times as ‘the Rottweiler of the caring professions’, from her first appearance in the national press in 1996 the eponymous Clare Barker has amused readers with her unique take on the world and her somewhat unorthodox approach to social work.

Together with David Ramsden, Harry adapted Clare’s adventures from the page to the airwaves in 2004 creating a long-running sitcom for Radio 4 starring Sally Philipps in the titular role (all episodes are available for download through BBC Sounds).

Of course, Clare is not Harry’s only creation – Hamlet, the perennially out of work thespian pig has appeared in The Stage for almost twenty years and Harry’s work regularly appears in national and international publications including the Independent, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, and the Radio Times.

As well as his extensive success entertaining the public with his insightfully wry wit Harry works tirelessly educating and supporting aspiring future creatives. He is an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society, he presents on the history of cartoons, sitcom writing, and BBC radio comedy, he also tours schools, theatres, art centres and festivals with his cartoon workshop ‘Release Your Inner Cartoonist’. He has won several awards for his work including the ‘UK Cartoon Art Trust: Strip Cartoonist of The Year’ and the Sony Radio Comedy Award.

In 2021 Harry’s outstanding contribution to the well-being of the nation’s social workers was recognised in his appointment as Ambassador for the British Association of Social Workers, Social Workers Union.

So, Harry is certainly no stranger to public recognition of his contributions such as that we mark here today, although I have noted a persistent strand of self-deprecating humility in his acceptance of such awards. It is this characteristic humbleness that leads me to close this presentation today by borrowing unashamedly, albeit with a slight amendment, Harry’s own words – penned in a cartoon to mark his 2021 BASW award: many congratulations Harry and “Honestly! [We don’t] hand these out to any Tom, Dick or Harry!”

Dirprwy Gadeirydd y Cyngor, mae’n bleser gen i gyflwyno Harry Venning i chi yn Gymrawd. 

Deputy Chair of Council, it is my absolute pleasure to present Harry Venning to you as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.

Dr Louise Marshall presenting Harry Venning

Aberystwyth University Honours 2022

During Graduation 2022, the University will present ten Honorary Fellowships to individuals who have or have had a connection with Aberystwyth or Wales, and who have made an outstanding contribution to their chosen field. 

This year’s Fellows include leading figures from the arts, broadcasting, law, agriculture, and the science and technology sectors.

The 2022 Honorary Fellows are (in order of presentation):

  • Professor Dame Elan Closs Stephens DBE, Electoral Commissioner for Wales and Non-Executive Director of the BBC Board and its member for Wales
  • Myrddin ap Dafydd, author, publisher and Archdruid of Wales
  • The Hon Justice Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera, Court of Appeal Judge, Malaysia
  • Harry Venning, award winning cartoonist, illustrator and comedy writer
  • Dr Zoe Laughlin, co-founder and director of the Institute of Making
  • Rhuanedd Richards, BBC Wales' National Director
  • Jonathan Whelan, IT consultant, author and Fellow of the British Computer Society
  • Tom Jones OBE, agriculturalist and founding Chair of the Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust
  • His Honour Judge Nicholas Cooke QC, former Senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court, “the Old Bailey”
  • Gwerfyl Pierce Jones, former Director and Chief Executive of the Welsh Books Council